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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

River cruise innovator expanding

Scenic adding more 'space ships' to fleet

Posted: 02/8/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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Scenic has nine

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Scenic has nine "space ships," featuring larger cabins, public areas and balconies.

He started out hosting bus tours for seniors in Australia in 1986. Today, he is the founder and managing director of Scenic Tours, Scenic Cruises and Emerald Waterways and is considered one of the river cruise industry's true innovators.

In the early days, Glen Moroney was the guy on the Aussie bus explaining the highlights of the tour along Great Ocean Road. His tourism business grew and in 2008 he ventured into the river cruising business with the first of what he referred to as "space ships" -- with emphasis on larger cabins and public areas.

He also added balconies, then uncommon on river ships. His reasoning? "Passengers who cruised the ocean had balconies. Why not give them something they're used to?"

It worked. With two new vessels coming this year, Scenic will have a fleet of nine space ships, plus the Scenic Tsar, a purpose-built vessel that operates out of Russia. Next year, Moroney will add three more space ships.

Last year, he made another unique decision -- to go all-inclusive.

"Our fares now cover meals, gratuities and shore excursions... also unlimited drinks, including the mini bar, and butler service. You will find bicycles on board, too. Tours are offered in three categories: Scenic Enrich, which focuses on cultural experiences; Scenic Tailormade, or on your own with an audio device; and Scenic Free Choice, tour options in a given port."

That seems a lot to digest, but not for Moroney. In Europe this spring, he will launch a new cruise line -- Emerald Waterways, with two new ships: Emerald Star and Emerald Sky. Capacity will be higher, prices will be lower, with a little less of the all-inclusive, but Moroney is not forsaking innovation.

A small swimming pool will be on the upper deck. The pool will have a hydraulic floor that will rise up at night and turn the pool into a movie theatre. Moroney created his own version of the French balcony, with windows that open vertically for these ships. The new cruisers will each carry 180 passengers (compared to 169 on Scenic) and he is adding two more Emerald ships next spring.

That's a lot of capacity to fill, so I asked Moroney how he was faring this year.

"Even with the new ships, our percentage of sold cabins is ahead of where we were at this time last year," he said. "The river cruise business continues to grow beyond our expectations and should for the foreseeable future.

"Ours is a repeat business, so we are constantly seeking new routes. The Rhone has been a success for us in France and this year we built a smaller ship, the Scenic Gem, to take advantage of the Seine so we could go all the way from Paris to Honfleur. This provides our guests with a full day at the Somme battlefields as well as a visit to Caudebec-en-Caux and the Normandy beaches. We will add a third river in France next year."

Any problems on the horizon?

"Not really. We need more infrastructure at some of the smaller cities, but keep in mind it costs communities very little to meet our needs compared to ocean-going ships."

Expect more ships and innovations from Moroney.

Visit portsandbows.com, sponsored by Expedia CruiseShipCenters, for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2014 E3

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